After falling a little short of an international title several years ago, Maureen Montagne is now part of the growing list of Filipina beauty queens who have etched their name in stellar pageant history of the Philippines after winning the 2021 Miss Globe title.
On Saturday (PH time), Montagne bested over 40 candidates for the crown, making her the Philippines' second Miss Globe titleholder after Ann Colis in 2015.
It also came just a week after her Binibining Pilipinas sister Cindy Obeñita won the Miss Intercontinental 2021 crown in Egypt.
The 28-year-old Montagne, who was born and raised in Arizona in the US with a Filipino mother, has an impressive portfolio as a pageant veteran, winning competitions in the US and the Philippines.
Despite staying many years abroad, the commercial model has never forgotten to acknowledge her Filipino roots.
In an interview with Balitang America in 2017, Montagne was beaming with pride to be a Filipina in a US-based contest.
“I'm so proud to be a Filipino. Filipinos are the most kind, giving, and caring people in the world. It brings me so much joy to promote my heritage, to promote my culture. We have so much to offer. I just have that Pinoy Pride,” she said.
In an earlier interview with her mother Annabelle, she didn't think her daughter would grow up to be a beauty queen. She said she grew up as a boyish girl who loved sports and the outdoors.
"She was a very active kid. She plays basketball, soccer, golf," Annabelle said.
Aside from working as a magazine writer, Montagne is also a professional host, working on stage in different events such as Manny Pacquiao’s first Concert of Champions.
On her Instagram account, the beauty queen recalled how scared but excited she was when she received a call to host the concert at the Araneta Coliseum.
“It was the biggest event I would ever host and I was in awe of all of the attendees. I had so many nerves but was incredibly excited to be at such a monumental event in Smart Araneta Coliseum,” Montagne quipped.
Montagne, who represented Batangas in local pageants, also loves sewing and surfing, having spent her time on the beach or with her sewing machine.
According to her, sewing has become her stress reliever ever since the pandemic began. Montagne was even invited to be a guest speaker to talk about sustainable fashion.
“I’m still a beginner but it just goes to show it’s never too late to learn a new skill,” she said.
Entering the Binibining Pilipinas competition, Montagne was touted as one of the strongest candidates among the girls.
In 2013, the newly-crowned Miss Globe returned to the Philippines to join Mutya ng Pilipinas 2013 where she finished as first runner up behind eventual winners Andrea Koreen Medina and Angeli Dione Gomez.
Two years later, Montagne won the Miss USA Arizona title and got the chance to vie for the Miss USA crown to represent the country at the prestigious Miss Universe contest. She managed to finish in the top 15.
"I've done four pageants. When I was 13, I did a local pageant here in Arizona. When I was 19, I competed in Miss Asia Arizona. I was lucky enough to place 3rd runner up. Then in 2013, I did Mutya ng Pilipinas which was a huge step for me. I was able to get first runner-up," she said prior to the coronation night.
In 2017, Montagne tried her luck at the Miss World USA where she fell short of winning the title and a possible chance to represent the US at the Miss World pageant, settling for a first runner-up finish.
“After Miss Arizona, I focused on school. Now that I finished with a degree from Arizona State University, I’ve been focusing on modeling. And I’m looking into getting a job in marketing,” she said.
Highlighting her Pinoy heritage, Montagne immersed herself with the Abaka Foundation, which promotes Filipino culture, language, and arts. In return, she learned to speak a few Tagalog words and became an inspiration for young kids.
“Personally, I wasn’t able to engage with my culture until college, until I found a Filipino club at Arizona State University. Having these venues for the kids to learn is amazing,” she added.
A year after, Montagne was named as the Superbods winner after two months of challenges, ranging from straightforward modelling to doing a fun run in their underpants.
“I think the best trait that I have developed living a healthy lifestyle has been learning discipline," Montagne said.
"It's not just taking care of your diet, but it's also making time to go work out, making sure that you're always living your best lifestyle, and really putting your best foot forward in life."
Miss World Philippines controversy
Montagne also figured in a controversy at Miss World Philippines in 2018 where she won the Miss Eco-Philippines crown.
She then represented the Philippines in an international pageant and clinched another first runner-up win under her belt.
However, eventual winner Suheyn Cipriani was later dethroned due to pregnancy, making Montagne as the rightful successor to the crown.
Montagne did not accept the title as she was "sticking with" her journey in Binibining Pilipinas, saying she has "poured my heart and soul" into it that year.
In the end, it was fourth runner-up Amy Tinie Abdul Aziz of Malaysia who took over the crown.
The national director of Miss World Philippines Arnold Vegafria said he felt "disappointed" with the decision of Montagne of letting go an international crown for a local pageant.
Montagne has long campaigned for several personal advocacies including the promotion of local textiles from the Philippines.
“Let’s continue this week featuring local brands! I’ve decided to only support local businesses for the rest of the year,” she once said in an Instagram post.
Before flying to Albania for Miss Globe, she hinted at some surprises, saying that she has been working with many Filipino designers for her wardrobes that feature the country’s textiles and heritage.
“I am making sure to really show our heritage, our local textiles, and I can't wait for you guys to see all of my outfits and costumes,” said Montagne.
She also volunteered in Siargao during the pandemic lockdown to provide food for people who lost their jobs.
At one point, Montagne and her group were able to feed 408 individuals as part of the Siargao Community Kitchen program.
Montagne also advocates for sustainable living and HIV-AIDS awareness.